UK cruise chiefs believe they are working with government on “the last pieces of the jigsaw” to enable a restart to sailings next year.
Speaking on a panel at Clia’s virtual showcase on Thursday (10 December) Royal Caribbean Group’s vice-president of government relations Stuart Leven said talks around new protocols were “pretty much done”.
Saga Travel chief executive Nick Stace said the sector had set a target of seeing the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice against ocean cruising “revised or removed” by the new year, adding he believed the industry had “literally done everything government has asked of us”.
“We’re pushing as hard as we can through all agencies of government – even right up to Number 10,” he said. “I think we’re making good progress.”
Stace revealed officials from the FCDO, Department for Transport and Public Health England had met with cruise sector leaders during a “summit” onboard Saga’s Spirit of Discovery in July.
“We literally put everything on the table to understand what we needed to do in order to resume,” he explained, branding the FCDO advice in its current form “a tremendous block” on bookings and being able to bring crew into the UK.
Leven said a learning from the summer summit was “never send anything to government unless it’s got a pretty picture and an arrow on it. Don’t expect for one second they know everything about our industry".
He said the resumptions of MSC, Costa and Tui in Europe in recent months had enabled UK lines to “talk about the actuality” of protocols.
“We’ve been able show with those 200-plus cruises that have been operating that you can offer a great guest experience but at the same time, a safe one. You can then evidence that to the UK government who aren’t cruise experts – it makes life easier for us.”